Taking a closer look at John Tavares in Blue… without the Orange
Originally discussed on Monday’s Full Tilt Rangers Radio Podcast Episode 3 which can be found here, here and here. The chain of events that could lead to John Tavares tossing on a New York Rangers jersey may just be beginning.
Just like was said before and will be said again, this is what if’s to the 10th degree. There’s so much that would need to happen for the Rangers to even be in a position to land John Tavares but experience tells me that the writing is on the wall for the script to unfold. Now has that script unfolded to the point of a preamble? It isn’t even close to the point of being able to release a trailer so in the spirit of the dog days of summer, let’s take a closer look at how the stars could align that would culminate in a press conference next July announcing the New York Rangers signing of Center John Tavares to a 7 year $80 million deal.
What’s wrong in Paradise?
John Tavares was drafted 1st overall by the New York Islanders in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and since then has averaged 30 goals, 40 assists a season. He has lead the New York Islanders out of the slums of Nassau’s decade long rebuild and captaining a respectable team leading to 3 playoff appearances in 8 NHL seasons. Tavares also helped the Isles finally making it out of the 1st round in 2016 where theyfell to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He’s been a point per game playoff player for them and is the type of guy to takeover a game at will. His career high 38 Goal, 48 Assist, 86 Point 2014-15 season ended with the Islanders running into a hot Florida Panthers team that wore them down over 7 games.
Stats aside, John Tavares is a 26 year old 1st line center, leader, goal scorer, playmaking machine and kingmaker. He turned Kyle Okposo from a bust into a 22G,42A,64 point making him a cool $42 million in the UFA market when he signed with Buffalo. In 2013-14 while centering Okposo and Thomas Vanek, the trio was one of the most dangerous lines in the league and was one of the last seasons Vanek was a point per game player seeing his game drop off after turning down a contract extension that then would’ve made him the highest paid NHL player. Matt Moulson saw his prime years playing alongside Tavares and since leaving his side has seen his numbers take a drastic slide having had three 30+ goal seasons and not having broken 20 goals in a year since he cashed in on a 5 year $25 million deal. Lastly helping PA Parenteau turn into a 60 point player alongside him helping him land a 4 year $16 million deal also never posting close to those numbers since.
John Tavares has made some guys ALOT of money in his career and the book on him is he’s a very loyal guy and will give the Islanders every chance to re-sign him. However he’s done so much for the organization, he understands that it’s now his time for the organization to do everything for him.
THE MAN HAS NEEDS.
Since entering the league, John Tavares has seen Sidney Crosby raise the Stanley Cup 3 times, Jonathan Toews raise it 3 times and looked west through the LIE across the midtown tunnel and watched as Islanders rival and this blog’s team make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014.
He saw what New York could be with a Championship hockey team. The Islanders are going to give him a blank check and let him dictate the amount of money he would like over 8 years and part of that evaluation will be looking at how he can maximize his money he’s earned while still leaving plenty for the Islanders to surround him with a team that can win a Cup.
The Islanders went out after the 2015 season and added veterans Jason Chimera and prized free agent signing Andrew Ladd while letting Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin walk with the hopes that Chimera and Ladd would add that veteran touch that would allow the Islanders to take that next step. It backfired and by mid-season Head Coach Jack Capuano was shown the door and Doug Weight entered in his place as the Islanders failed to make a playoff appearance.
In this current offseason, it’s been known that the Islanders need to make John Tavares happy. His contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season, they’ve been eligible to discuss a new contract with him for quite some time now. Adding a nice little piece in Jordan Eberle to play on his wing, a move that could piece together a pretty potent 1st line scoring threat once again for them, isn’t enough. They’ve also seen Travis Hamonic moved to Calgary for future picks (1st and 2nd rounders) to make room for younger defensemen ready to play, a move I’m not too sure made John Tavares too happy as those picks aren’t going to help him get closer to the Cup today and the Islanders have consistently been drafting talent.
The mess… the insanity
The biggest issue is where will the Islanders be playing in a few years? While many thought it was an upgrade when they picked up and closed down Nassau for the bright lights of Brooklyn, that move hasn’t panned out as well as hoped for the organization. The Barclay’s Center essentially would rather book Beyonce than have the Islanders play there as they simply make more money on concerts than games.
The arena wasn’t built for a hockey team and the quality of ice has drawn the ire of players within the organization and league wide. There is talk of the Islanders breaking ground on a new arena near Belmont Park on Long Island but does that make things better or worse for them? Can the Belmont Park area attract the business’ to purchase box’s? Is it feasible? There’s been rumors of them possibly posting up and building something in Flushing near CitiField as well, yet going back to Beyonce who’s been rumored to buy the Houston Rockets, things get a little hairy here.
The NBA’s Houston Rockets are up for sale and this matters here not just because Beyonce is looking to make a nice purchase here but because Houston’s Toyota Center is an arena built for a hockey team. It also boasts a basketball team, but current team owner Leslie Alexander has never wanted a hockey team in the Toyota Center. A sale of that team opens up the Houston market to the NHL and probably supersedes Seattle and Quebec City as preferred destinations. As the NHL won’t be looking to add any expansion teams imminently, that Houston market will be up for grabs for relocation real quick. John Tavares really needs to ask himself if he wants to spend his 30’s in Texas or not.
We brought up eventual landing places and discussed the synchrony in midtown Manhattan for him, detailing why it actually make the most sense for what Tavares is looking for.
It’s telling that Tavares has not signed an extension yet and although he attempted to cool the rumor mill’s a bit yesterday by telling TSN in Toronto, “I’ve enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that experience to continue… For me, I just want to get ready for the upcoming season and work on being the best player I can be for the Islanders.” (Translation: Someone’s going to pay me big, watch these goals magically turn into dollars).
When asked about negotiations he said, “I think I’ll just keep that all internal” (translation:they know what I want). “We’ve had great open communication” (translation:they know what i want). “It’s obviously a great place to play” (translation:… You are a very nice man John).
Let’s call it for what it’s worth, if it was about money, he’d have signed by now. It’s not about money, it’s about what type of career he’s going to have by committing to becoming a lifelong Islander… He know’s he’s at the moment where he has to speak now or forever hold his peace and simply said, he has his concerns.
A player of John Tavares’ caliber should be sniffing the Eastern Conference Finals year after year, not the grassy pines of the golf course as the Calendar turns to May then June. He is not a selfish player and has put the team first many times and that has to be slightly frustrating as he looks down the road and watches as the New York Rangers year in and year out are constantly doing everything they can to give their star, Henrik Lundqvist every tool and every piece he needs to make a playoff run each year.
In Tavares’ career The New York Rangers have gone to the Eastern Conference Finals three times, the Stanley Cup Finals once all without never having a true top 10 Center. That has to leave an impression on him as the Rangers are able to add key pieces year after year, stay competitive and stable, while him and the Islanders are on their 3rd practice facility, 2nd arena and 3rd Arena deal. While he’s seen players leave his organization, he just saw Kevin Shattenkirk take a monster discount to join the Rangers organization.
The Rangers, and so do the Islanders, have some very good young pieces. Where the Islanders have Anders Lee, Joshua Ho-Sang and Brock Nelson, the New York Rangers have Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, JT Miller and Jimmy Vesey. Where the Islanders added Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd, the Rangers have Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad and on the blue line where the Islanders have Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuck and Calvin DeHaan, the Rangers have a re-vamped core of Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei… the Rangers also have Henrik Lundqvist where the Islanders have Thomas Greiss. So the supporting cast’s are similar but what would be Tavares supporting cast if he donned the Rangers blue, has been beating and outperforming Tavares and his supporting cast his entire career.
Let’s be clear here, John Tavares as a New York Ranger doesn’t come without it’s cost. Although Nash’s money will be coming off the books at the same time, the team would have to make some tough decisions as far as extensions for guys of the like of Skjei, Miller, Hayes and Vesey… one or two of them may have to go. Ryan McDonagh will have his contract expiring in 2 years and he’ll need to be paid handsomely as well so it isn’t a simple add.
That’s not to mention the hurdles that would have to be overcome. First and Foremost, the New York Islanders won’t just let John Tavares walk to Unrestricted Free Agency. While there’s definitely some trouble in paradise right now and Tavares is playing his cards close to the chest. A contract could be signed any day now but it seems more likely at this point, he will be entering the 2017-18 season without a contract extension and THAT’S where the rumors start to pile up.
Every losing streak the team goes on, the questions will begin to mount about a John Tavares deadline deal, teams are going to ask and teams are going to make some real interesting offers. Garth Snow won’t be taking call from Jeff Gorton though, he’ll block him on iMessage, send his emails to Junk and unfriend him on Facebook before he even considers sending his franchise to midtown. Those teams calling are going to want to discuss an extension with Tavares which will maximize the value of the return the Islanders would get and they’ll need to biggest return possible if that time comes.
So you look around the league at the teams with cap space that could come calling on Tavares. If they want him as a rental, they feel he’s a final piece so that knocks it down to contenders. Boston has the money and will be in the mix, Montreal has the money and will be in the mix, but they like New York will need to make the long term sacrifices to make room for Tavares on an extension, Toronto could call on a rental but he isn’t a long term fit there as their big money will be focused on Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
So the field get’s narrowed and Tavares will control where he goes as well. The scenario may come where he has not signed an extension, the Islanders do not have a long term plan in place, the team is in contention for a playoff spot and Garth Snow decides to roll the dice ala Zach Parise and see if lightning can’t strike and if that’s the case, that’s the butterfly effect of events that would need to unfold to reach next summertime where the talks of Tavares to Midtown become realistic.